Sonam Lhosar

Shamans during Sonam Lhosar Festival at Bhrikutimandap in the capital on Thursday

Sonam Losar is celebrated around the same time of year as Chinese and Mongolian New year and it also follows the Chinese Calendar. In fact, the central area where Sonam Lhosar is being celebrated is Tibet but it is also celebrated by certain ethnic groups in Nepal, particularly the Tamang. The Tamang comprise 8% of the population of Nepal, are 90% Buddhist and have a distinct language and culture. They traditionally live in Nepal’s central highlands, which also Kathmandu, the capital. Tamang has moved to all regions of Nepal, neighboring areas of northern India, Bhutan and Burma.

In Nepal, Sonam Losar falls mainly in early January to mid-February on the first new moon of the month called ‘Magh’. On the last day of the twelfth month, the Tamang begin planning for Sonam Losar. They clean their homes and try to “welcome the new year” in their mindset. Buddhist monasteries also perform rituals that include masked dances, which are supposed to drive out “negative forces”. Most of the people go to monasteries temples, and shrines to participate in different “Sonam Losar Eve” ceremonies.

The celebrants also purchase new clothes and wear them on New Year’s Day. They also decorate their residences and wear new clothes. All the people meet their families to share a delicious meal where they serve pork, duck, chicken and numerous sweet desserts.